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How Are You Handling Differences in Faith?

First Reading:  Zechariah 8:1-8

This word of the LORD of hosts came: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred to jealous wrath for her. Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and I will dwell within Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem. The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also, says the LORD of hosts? Thus says the LORD of hosts: Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun, and from the land of the setting sun. I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem. They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 AND 22-23

The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory. The nations shall revere your name, O LORD, and all the kings of the earth your glory, When the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in his glory; When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer. Let this be written for the generation to come, and let his future creatures praise the LORD: “The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die. The children of your servants shall abide, and their posterity shall continue in your presence.
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion; and his praise, in Jerusalem, When the peoples gather together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

Gospel:  Luke 9:46-50

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Then John said in reply,  “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name  and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.”Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

ESV

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My oldest sister was recently married to her boyfriend of almost twenty years. We witnessed a private ceremony out at our family’s country spot, including her immediate family and his and a handful of their close friends. The presider over the ceremony was a Lutheran minister. A female minister. My heart rejoiced when my sister shared her dear friend would be presiding. A woman of God! How wonderful.

But a tiny sliver of my heart took pause. Our five year old wannabe priest has never seen a woman wearing a collar. He’s pretty keen on all this liturgical business (hosts daily mass in his closet, which is a monastery, and a convent for the three year old) and although he’s well aware of other Christians, we usually discuss them in terms of how our faiths differ.

Driving by the huge stone church that looms on the way to our church, I always note, “There’s a Protestant church. They don’t believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist, the Pope is the head of the church, or that Mary had Jesus as a miracle baby.” The kids duly repeat this to themselves and each other and any obliging ear in a ten mile radius. I also slip in, “They’re our brothers and sisters in the faith, though.”

But does that last line really sink in? That we have so much in common with all Christians? That we pray for the union of all Christians daily? That whoever is not against you is for you?

It really sank in for me, watching this lovely and holy woman witness my sister and her spouse’s vows. She and I have so much in common. My children had a chance to see and hear and discuss up close and personal how a woman of faith is our sister-in-faith, and how even though we do have doctrinal differences and differing traditions, relatively speaking, those differences pale comparatively.

Now when we drive past the huge stone church I note, “There’s another Christian church. We share lots of beliefs with them. A few things are different about Holy Communion and the Pope and Mama Mary. But they are still our brothers and sisters in faith.”

Are you harboring and harping on differences in your heart with someone in your life, with some group in your life? Can you find common ground while still respecting your differences? How is Jesus talking to you today in this Gospel?

photo by Corynne Olivia

Nell O’Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.

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